February 20, 2010

Sex Addiction A Boon For US Clinics

Sex addiction may be a big problem for many star athletes and top celebrities, but it is also big business for clinics offering treatment.

Clinics have been offering sex addiction treatments for years and many celebrities have gone into rehab for it, but probably the biggest case is the one surrounding Tiger Woods. He may not have been the first to undergo treatment, but it is his case that is pushing the idea of sex addiction as a serious disease.

Tiger Woods spoke out Friday in a live televised apology to his wife, his family, and his fans, for his multiple adulterous affairs with multiple women, including an adult film star. Woods said he had so far received 45 days of treatment at a clinic.

Professionals have labeled sex addiction as an addiction comparable to alcoholism and is not just an excuse for philanderers.

Tiger Woods has "drawn a lot of attention to the issue," Craig Gross, sex addiction expert and author of several books on the topic, told AFP. Gross, who has dealt with the issue for years, said "A lot of relations are in shambles because of that. It is a growing issue that many more people than we can imagine are dealing with."

Clinics that treat sex addiction, like the Pine Grove facility in Mississippi used by Woods, charge anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 dollars for a six-week course, according to Gross. Treatments typically consist of psychotherapy, medication and group therapy much like the 12-step AA program. Sometimes relatives or close friends will participate in the therapy. Antidepressants are sometimes offered to lower sex-drive in the addict.

Some clinics offer in-and-out therapies that last only a week or two. One clinic in Arizona has a so-called "intensive" treatment plan that has the patient in and out in four days.

Sex addiction specialist Michael Johnson from Austin, Texas, said that a real cure for that type of addiction is only possible in two years or longer.

The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize sex addiction as a true disorder or illness, and many medical experts remain guarded when the topic is brought to light. But, according to Johnson, this compulsive, unrestrained sexual appetite can cause harm.

Johnson pointed out that in his profession, "there are people who are not as prominent as Tiger Woods but successful people that put all their life at risk." Woods is a good example, however. He put a lot at risk; "He was on the top of the world and doing foolish things," said Johnson.

The most basic element involved in sex addiction therapy is talking about it. But Woods's case was quite unusual. Johnson said he has had "various clients going to the sex addiction clinics and never heard about one of them having to make a public apology as part of the treatment."

Tiger Woods' public apology was a success, Gross said. "His statement showed clearly that there are things that he learned. He was believable and sincere."